R. H. Quaytman


We had to take this picture for an article in a magazine. I was feeling conflicted about even agreeing to do it because, on the one hand, I do understand the curiosity of seeing the artist, but, on the other hand, why and how would I provide that image? To deny all requests for portrait photographs seems equally vain as to accept them. I requested that we use Jason because I knew he would work with me to construct a portrait that would distract from me as much as reveal me. The personhood of female artists is judged differently from that of our male colleagues. When we look at a photographic portrait of a female artist, the first thing people think about is how this person rates on the attractiveness and age scale. With male artists the first focus is instead on decoding the expression on the face or in the body. What they are saying as opposed to how they are looking. Often knowing an artwork gets confused with the experience of knowing a person. The work of female artists tends to be discussed with special emphasis on their personal lives, which, in turn, seems inextricably related to their personal appearance. These interpretations, accurate or not, distract from the paintings. In an attempt to counter these things, Jason and I composed a photograph that provides other equally interesting points of entry. Or you could call it a portrait with distractions. I asked Jason if we could compose my portrait in the same way I compose a sequence of paintings. In other words, the viewers see me, move to the painting (Chapter 8), to the light source, and away through the window and into the context of the room. We both seem to take similar pleasure out of carefully composing images. Jason commented, "I rarely get the opportunity to tweak things one inch this way and one inch that way for hours without my subjects losing all patience with me. But this time I more than met my match."